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M c S W E E N E Y ' S
C A T C H P O L E

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In order to bring comfort to the unaided, and aid to the discomforted, the McSweeney's Catchpole (M.C.) will respond as needed to your inquiries, hopefully providing the respite you seek, on this very page. Send queries to mcsweeneys@a-sinistra.com, and include ASK MC in your subject heading. Please write with concision and care.

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Dear M.C.

In the generally successful "Terms of Betrayal" piece (no spelling errors, nice token-type relations), one possibly fluffed note.

How is "I feel your pain" an instance of Ethopoeia?

Just wondering,
Dr. Sanders


Dear Dr. Sanders:

In the course of reviewing this item, three different editor-persons were asked to vet the propriety of the terminology, each with varying levels of intellectual credentials in rhetoric (a rhetorician was not consulted in any case, but only because we don't readily know any). We failed to reach consensus on several items, and the compromise was to publish it as is and see if the readership would find fault. We didn't, however, anticipate any issue with Ethopoeia.

One of our primary sources was the very helpful site "Silva Rhetoricae", maintained by Gideon O. Burton, which defines Ethopoiea as: 'The description and portrayal of a character (natural propensities, manners and affections, etc.). A kind of enargia.' Our secondary source, the OED, is similar: "Delineation of character; moral portraiture" and provides the following cite from Edward Phillips, "A figure of Rhetorick in which there is a feigning of certain words accommodated to certain persons, either to their praise or reproach."

Taken literally, it then applies that the speaker is referring to the subject as in pain (satisfying the descriptive qualification), implying that the subject has expressed pain, as much as it may seem to be a hypocritical position. Also, it might be read that the speaker is feeling the pain of the subject (that is, caused by the subject), not the subject's pain, which renders a moral portrait of the subject, one which should be clear from the other tropes listed prior. Additionally, that the subject would attempt to circumvent responsibility by claiming to be in pain as well would also provide moral characterization.

A common error is to attribute this quote to the president, though this piece was in fact, written prior to the incident that made this phrase famous. The author, however, was pleased that it is now so closely associated with a known philanderer, as it then serves to associate the subject with the president and his standards of fidelity, which would constitute a moral description.

Granted, the textual evidence is not this granular, but we felt that the subject matter was global enough for readers to make inferences based on the 'typical' behavior in these circumstances.

The M.C.

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Dear M.C.

What's going on? What's the problem? I am confused. And I kind of like you.

Gillian Beebe


Dear Gillian:

We aren't so arrogant as to presume that our wit is so rapier-like that it cuts to the quick, that we have left our small-but-sturdy readership in the reference dust. But it seems we have created unnecessary confusion. It seems that we do this frequently, especially when making reference to media entities larger than ourselves involved in complex matters legal and financial.

We like everyone, probably more than they think. Probably more than is healthy. And we are sad when we confuse, disappoint.

There aren't any problems we know about. Well, that isn't entirely true. We have our good days and our bad days, as would a kindly older person we wish might be around to provide grandperson-like advice. But no one has told us there is a problem, or, rather, that they have a problem with us. Well, that isn't true either, and here, like a petulant child, we would like to somehow work in a 'just not as funny' reference. Oh, look, we just did.

So, again, no problems here! Sunshine and joy, all around. Including you. Please don't be confused. Everything is back to 'normal.'

The M.C.


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Dear M.C.

Inspired by the above correspondence about pseudonyms the question has arisen in my mind as to how best formulate one's pseudonym, i.e. should one adhere to the traditional initials on a state-issued birth certificate, or, considering the times are we free to adlib?

Tori Radaich, a.k.a. ???


Dear Tori:

We use a number of pseudonyms around these parts for the obvious reason: to make it seem like there are more of us than one would think. In fact, we do not even constitute a single person (the entire website is created from a macro that simply fetches the work of other people and does some computer magic, and there you go).

And some of us have terribly dull names. We like names that make us smile, because they recall something else or someone else that we like. Or that are funny, or, rather, just not as funny.

We find inspiration in the unnoticed works of 'southern' authors, public figures in commerce, and historical figures. And if that fails us, we consult a high school yearbook from what we think is Yemassee, South Carolina, but cannot be sure, as the cover has been torn off.

The M.C.


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Dear M.C.

Why is it called a mopier? Doesn't that name practically doom the thing to a sad existence? That story made me sad. And office appliances always do get the best views. I suspect that is because humans would fight over the significance of who gets the best view.

Friday
Gillian Beebe


Dear Gillian:

Though it may not appear to the contrary, we really do not have great insight into the doings of organizations that are not us. This thing, 'mopier,' we do not know. But your having asked, we too have a sting of melancholy. Without knowing anything about this device, its name seems only to imply a drab inelegance. Our best guess would be that it is not unlike a photocopier, often called a copier, but somehow less. A flawed semblance. It would be sad indeed to think something exists out there fitting such a description.

Not wanting to fail you, we did consult the wonders of the Internet, and we have such very good news. The mopier, still saddled with an unfortunate moniker, is much more than a bad copier. We are told that mopier isn't the awkward contraction of, say, 'mediocre-copier.' It stands, instead, for 'multiple-original-prints.' How this is, we do not know. But it seems that the mopier doesn't actually copy; it makes, well, you guessed, multiple original prints. The mechanics of this, we are sure, are beyond our skills. If we are to believe the news we find laying around, a mopy is every bit as good as the original. That, at least, may help the self-esteem issues it is sure to suffer. And try not to think of the mopy as mo-py; think of it as mopp-y.

We also think, though we aren't sure, but 'mopier' might be a restricted use trade name. Like, when you want to yell down the hall: "Can you make Xer- of this?" but you cut yourself off, knowing what a transgression this is, because there is that quiet gentleman from Xer- who will raise his hand every time you almost say Xer- inappropriately (in this case, because the 'photocopier' on your floor is a Min-, and the nearest Xer- is two floors up). In the meantime, say mopier all you want. We will get back to you if we are sued.

The M.C.

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Dear M.C.

I was wondering if you thought it would be wise for me to announce that as a senior at UC Santa Cruz, in 1990, I had a story, "Confessions of a Love-Letter Writer," published in the short-lived student publication "Hysteria" under the name Lindy Berman. I am not, in fact, named Lindy Berman. I was spiteful and worried. My first sumbission to this publication had been rejected, I thought perhaps a pseudonym would increase my chances of being published. (It worked!) I just want to clear things up. So, do you think this is a good idea?

Hopefully Yours,
Sara Eve Roseman


Dear Sara Eve:

Many wonderful and talented writers have embraced psuedonyms. Some of our favorites writers found this useful for whatever reason. We are glad it worked for you. In fact, we think you shouldn't let the burden of guilt inhibit your future writing career. And we congratulate you, at this late date, on your success.

In the event that you still feel the need to come clean, we would be happy to be the official outlet for this information.

The M.C.

[the above names have been changed -ed.]

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Dear M.C.

OK. Now what?

(You're stuck aren't you?)

With understanding and discretion,
Cash Miller



Dear Cash:

Things like this. (Maybe.)

The M.C.


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Dear M.C. (Hammer):

Are you, or have you ever been Nicholas Musolino? If so, my name is Jeff. Nice to meet you. If not, then disregard the previous introduction.

yr pal (sort of, but not yet fully),
Jeff


Dear Jeff:

Your question seems to unfortunately reference HUAC. We don't presume that whatever we do warrants strident protests of privacy either as a position or to extend this joke. Neither are we simpering liberals seeing such material as utterly off limits; we just don't think it is worth the trip.

For those with less interest in the mechanics of the Internet, the WHOIS record lookup for this domain is registered to Nicholas Musolino. The 'other' domains have different records. It would follow that Nicholas Musolino is 'responsible' for this site. We don't wish to be duplicitous, but your question doesn't really add to the generally available information about this site. Is the answer to this 'who' question material? As we said yesterday, we are. We hope you like it.

The M.C.


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Dear M.C.

There are those of us that laugh at the Pope. There are those of us who watch C-Span for fun. There are those of us that wear gold sequined women's underpants.

And then there are those of us who are very, very much confused.

After one week of pure torture and pain over the fact that my beloved McSweeney's webpage is permanently blue, this page emerged. It looked like the old McSweeney's, just a little less funny. I sat in my grey desk chair with wheels and said "Huh." Anyone could notice the differences here: more pictures, a different font in the header, and no "Letters From Melissa Cruz's Father." I figured that it was all right, and I could get my McSweeney's fix. The nation's children sobbed: "At least it is McSweeney's!"

Then, shock- mcsweeneys.net has returned. Now, I am even more confused. Two McSweeney's? I wondered idly, until mcsweeneys.net soon announced having no affiliation with this mcsweeneys.org; in fact, it claims to be just as befuddled as I!

I have only one question for you now: What the hell is going on? There are two McSweeney's, and they seem just a lit-tle too familiar for me...
-Meg.


Dear Meg:

A recent review of emails reveals a suspicious number of emails from the sort of places that give out email addresses for free, without limit. Now, these are fine places to hang out. Your children can probably play there unattended. However, that doesn't mean there isn't the possibility of mischief.

We are not questioning the validity of you, or your question, Meg, but we want to alert you to the dangers of misrepresentation; we wouldn't want you to be the Meg Who Cried Wolf. We are devout adherents to the credo of clean living, and abhor falsity wherever it may be found.

We received a congratulatory email last week from the good people at the company that makes this Internet thing possible, and it said, in part, "you are on your way toward making a name for yourself on the Internet!" Perhaps they could help you more, since we suspect they have something to do with all this, given that unerring prediction.

The M.C.

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Dear M.C.

Now I'm confused. Are you stupid or am I?

Lorina Liddell


[Note: the following reply was provided by Lorina herself -ed.]


Ms. Liddell:
Thank you for your question. It is a fine question. It has an answer. You are.

This answer has been too long already. Hi.

The M.C.


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Dear M.C.

There's something rotten in Denmark. Those pinchers making up a part of your banner - sometimes I feel they are being handled in a friendly manner - other times, I sense some menacing. Which is it?

Concerned (sometimes), and unconcerned (at other times),

yr pal (maybe - I'm still a little wary)
Jeff


Dear Jeff:

The pincers in question are from an engraving demonstrating the correct process for installing? inserting? (we lack a knowledge and appreciation for the terminology of the 'body arts') nose rings for identification in swine. Now, we don't intend for that explanation to be taken as an explicit or implicit critical commentary of anyone, but to only to share, that, indeed, somewhere, those pincers hurt.

We are. We are not trying to hurt. But, we are also fallible, human; we err, and thus some may be hurt. For this we apologize sincerely.

The M.C.


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Dear M.C.

I am generally a logical and pragmatic person. Excepting in matters of theheart, where I am at once emotional and yet artificially removed. What I mean to say is that I want to jump in without checking the waters, but like a bossy lifeguard, I also, grab myself and preach to myself about the dangers of untested, unchartered, murky depths, and so on and so forth.

In any case, once again, at the tender age of 40, a 10 year marriage ending in divorce, two children, broken dreams, I am here to ask you - should I have followed my heart? Or should I have followed my gut?

My gut was right, again, you see.

My heart is very sweet, but it is like a mildly retarded person. (No offense meant - I am not sure if the word retarded is politically incorrect, and if it is, what is the PC word for retarded?) Whereas my gut is often correct - "Don't listen to that extremely good looking man any longer. He can't be trusted!" - and so it turns out that the extremely good looking man is wholly untrustworthy, and my gut says "Nyah, Nyah, you shoulda listened to me and then you wouldn't be writing the ASK MC column!"

So, I guess I answered my own question.

Thanks anyway!
K. Fillmore
Toronto


Dear K:

We are glad we could be there for you. Heart? Gut? Who can say? Maybe in a better world they would speak with a unitary voice, and no one would be forced to choose, make literal distinctions, weigh the good vs. the less good.

The M.C.


 



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